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East Texan's collection of baseball treasures to go on display

George Whitley

By George Whitley
July 8, 2017 at 9:30 p.m.


Jack Buchanan so loved the game of baseball. A lifelong Cubs fan, he was even nicknamed "Cubbie" by his friends.

Buchanan's love for the game began when he was a child growing up in East Texas. That passion sustained him throughout his life as he amassed an impressive bevy of baseball memorabilia. It's a mini-Cooperstown that would amaze most any baseball enthusiast.

Buchanan's priceless collection of autographed baseballs, bats, cards and photos will be on display at the Gregg County Historical Museum from July 11 through Aug. 26 as part of the summer "Field of Dreams" exhibit.

The museum pairs up Buchanan's impressive assemblage with the North American Baseball Stadium photographic exhibit by renowned photographer Jim Dow.

Dow traveled the country taking beautiful panoramic pictures of major-league stadiums over a period of years.

Many of those cathedrals to the great game are no longer standing.

His visual assortments are on loan from the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University in Niagara Falls, New York.

When Buchanan passed away in early 2012, he left behind a treasure trove of baseball memorabilia. Now, thanks to his great-nephew, Cam, local baseball fans get a chance to delight in his great-uncle's passion for the national pastime.

Buchanan, born in Big Sandy in 1924, served in the United States Navy before heading north to Chicago. It was while in the Windy City, attending DePaul University, Buchanan's adoration for the Cubs first surfaced.

Cam fondly recalled his great-uncle's love and devotion for those lovable losers.

"Every time I'd go fishing at Lake Cherokee with my grand dad and we'd go see him, he'd always have the Cubs playing on WGN. That was long before they got lights at Wrigley Field and played all day games," offered the younger Buchanan, who would play a significant role in starting his great-uncle's collection craze.

Gregg County Historical Museum Executive Director Lindsay Loy recalled the day she first met with Cam Buchanan and the idea for a summer baseball exhibit unfolded.

"It was March of last year when he came into the museum. His daughter's school was taking a tour and he was a chaperone," Loy recalled. "He just stopped by the office and asked if we had any interest in doing a baseball exhibit. When he told me what all he had, I told him we'd definitely be interested and that it'd be perfect for the summer."

After receiving a couple of examples from Buchanan's baseball menagerie, Loy set out to make the shared vision a reality.

"I was looking for something to complement Mr. Buchanan's collection. After doing a little research, I came across the Dow exhibit. It was the perfect match. We're going to take the baseball collection Mr. Buchanan is bringing along with the pictures by Jim Dow and co-mingling the whole thing into one fantastic baseball exhibit," Loy said.

"The old stadium pictures automatically bring back nostalgia, and mixed in with Mr. Buchanan's stuff, this is going to be something really special.

"It's 75 of the most significant and iconic baseball players in history on display."

And to think the elder Buchanan's baseball-collecting compulsion started with a kind, innocent gesture from his great-nephew many years ago.

"I had gone to a baseball signing show when I was a kid. It was somewhere between 1985 and 1989. I used to collect baseball cards. Mark Grace, first baseman for the Cubs, was there signing autographs," remembered Cam.

"Grace autographed an 8 x 10 for my great-uncle and I took it to him as a gift. That was the very first thing he got and it just exploded from there."

Jack's obsession became making as many card and collectable shows as possible. After retiring from Texas Eastman, Buchanan was able to devote even more time to his pursuit.

"This collection includes some of the greatest of the greats," his great-nephew said. "You have autographs from Carl Yastrzemski, Warren Spahn, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.

"He just went to shows all over and began collecting over the course of years and years. It's a collection that's unrivaled from what I've seen."

The younger Buchanan hopes this six-week exhibit will give baseball purists something to appreciate.

"My great-uncle was a very gracious man and everybody enjoyed being around him. This is an opportunity to share him with Longview and the surrounding area," he said.

"For those of us that love and understand the game, this is something we can share with younger generations."

In addition to the names already mentioned, museum patrons can expect to see autographed items from Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken, Ryan Sandberg, Jose Canseco, Reggie Jackson and Pete Rose. Nolan Ryan's signed rookie card will also be on display.

And that's just scratching the surface of Buchanan's abundance of baseball articles.

Also, current Baltimore Oriole and former Longview Lobo Chris Davis has donated a signed jersey, while the late Charlie Neal's daughter, Brenda Powers, has loaned out Neal's 1959 Gold Glove trophy from his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he played with the legendary Jackie Robinson.

Neal, who passed away in 1996, was born in Longview and played seven years in the majors.

Jefferson native Ron Cook will also have items on display from his stint with the Houston Astros in the early 1970s.

Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Regular museum admission applies.

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